I stopped drinking two years ago – I don’t remember the actual day but it was April 2011. I have learn a lot in those 24 months about how the body and mind repair themselves after years of being subjected to alcohol, and seen how it is possible to leave behind a very negative persona, full of self-doubt, low confidence and insecurities, and replace her with someone who lives and breathes optimism, self-confidence and contentment.
One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when attempting to adopt a sober lifestyle is that when first embarking on this new pathway, the newly teetotal person has very low feelings of self-worth, and the powerful and persuasive inner voice that screams out ‘you don’t deserve anything good in life anyway so why try and be happy’ is difficult to ignore.
When I first emerged from that nightmarish tunnel of relentless drinking and all the awful associations that go with it, I hated myself. I found it very hard to hold a conversation with someone and hold their eye contact. I did not believe in my abilities whatsoever, I felt as though I were inferior to everyone. I had no real ambitions because I could not conceive of ever achieving anything worthwhile; I would’ve struggled to come up with a list of 10 things I liked about me.
When you have such a low opinion of yourself, it is a constant battle to stay away from alcohol, because it is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing that you don’t deserve a better life than the one you are trying to escape from.
Over time – and this is why I am writing this today, for anyone who is fighting the urge to give in to alcohol and all its temptations in the early days of sobriety – your belief in yourself grows. Gradually you begin to think of yourself as a decent human being who is worth more than simply accepting their lot as a muted, sloshed, semi-conscious, unhealthy, foolish, out-of-control, full of shame drunk and you do consider other possibilities. Alternative lifestyle choices begin to spring up around you and surprisingly at first, you take them.
After a sufficient amount of time has passed, it becomes an incongruous idea that you might pick up a glass of toxic liquid, and drink it with the full knowledge that it will transform you into a different person. Your heart will beat faster, your words will begin to slur, you will spout nonsense, you’ll lose your sense of who you are, you will embarrass yourself by saying or doing something silly, you’ll wake up feeling dehydrated and ill, you will berate yourself for how you acted, you’ll snap at your kids, your performance at work will be below par, you won’t like yourself, you will look awful.
And with time comes such self-awareness and a feeling of actually liking yourself, that presented with the chance of having an alcoholic drink, you genuinely come to think ‘Urrgh, why would I ever do that to myself?’
At least, that’s how it has turned out for me.